Despite the evergreen theme, Julia’s whining is more likely to turn readers off than help them relate to her.

THE BATTLE OF DARCY LANE

As soon as new neighbor Alyssa shows up, Taylor is mesmerized, leaving best friend Julia feeling threatened.

Immediately after 12-year-old Julia has bemoaned the boredom of hanging around her swimming pool with Taylor all summer, Alyssa enters the scene. Alyssa makes an unwelcome comment about Julia’s unicorn-themed T-shirt, so Julia makes fun of Russia, the ball game Alyssa has begun to teach Taylor. Thus begins an escalating conflict, fueled mostly by Alyssa’s cruelty and Taylor’s complicity, which peaks with Alyssa’s challenge to Julia to a one-on-one Russia tournament. Julia’s overbearing but “often right” mother quickly arranges for Julia to spend two weeks at music camp, where Julia partially recovers her sense of self. Before the final Russia showdown—postponed once by the emergence of 17-year cicadas—readers learn about less-than-cool Wendy, loyal to Julia but dandruff-blighted; Julia’s crush on her neighbor Peter; Julia’s first bra; and why Julia’s dream bedroom has been temporarily put on hold. The novel’s underlying tone of superiority, supported by the implicit assurance that life gets better for people who are “passionate about stuff,” is confirmed in the ending acknowledgments: “And an extra special thanks to the two girls who made my life on Albourne Avenue so miserable. Victory is mine.”

Despite the evergreen theme, Julia’s whining is more likely to turn readers off than help them relate to her. (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: April 22, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-7624-4948-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Running Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 12, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2014

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the...

TUCK EVERLASTING

At a time when death has become an acceptable, even voguish subject in children's fiction, Natalie Babbitt comes through with a stylistic gem about living forever. 

Protected Winnie, the ten-year-old heroine, is not immortal, but when she comes upon young Jesse Tuck drinking from a secret spring in her parents' woods, she finds herself involved with a family who, having innocently drunk the same water some 87 years earlier, haven't aged a moment since. Though the mood is delicate, there is no lack of action, with the Tucks (previously suspected of witchcraft) now pursued for kidnapping Winnie; Mae Tuck, the middle aged mother, striking and killing a stranger who is onto their secret and would sell the water; and Winnie taking Mae's place in prison so that the Tucks can get away before she is hanged from the neck until....? Though Babbitt makes the family a sad one, most of their reasons for discontent are circumstantial and there isn't a great deal of wisdom to be gleaned from their fate or Winnie's decision not to share it. 

However the compelling fitness of theme and event and the apt but unexpected imagery (the opening sentences compare the first week in August when this takes place to "the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning") help to justify the extravagant early assertion that had the secret about to be revealed been known at the time of the action, the very earth "would have trembled on its axis like a beetle on a pin." (Fantasy. 9-11)

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 1975

ISBN: 0312369816

Page Count: 164

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: April 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1975

Did you like this book?

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean.

MUSTACHES FOR MADDIE

A 12-year-old copes with a brain tumor.

Maddie likes potatoes and fake mustaches. Kids at school are nice (except one whom readers will see instantly is a bully); soon they’ll get to perform Shakespeare scenes in a unit they’ve all been looking forward to. But recent dysfunctions in Maddie’s arm and leg mean, stunningly, that she has a brain tumor. She has two surgeries, the first successful, the second taking place after the book’s end, leaving readers hanging. The tumor’s not malignant, but it—or the surgeries—could cause sight loss, personality change, or death. The descriptions of surgery aren’t for the faint of heart. The authors—parents of a real-life Maddie who really had a brain tumor—imbue fictional Maddie’s first-person narration with quirky turns of phrase (“For the love of potatoes!”) and whimsy (she imagines her medical battles as epic fantasy fights and pretends MRI stands for Mustard Rat from Indiana or Mustaches Rock Importantly), but they also portray her as a model sick kid. She’s frightened but never acts out, snaps, or resists. Her most frequent commentary about the tumor, having her skull opened, and the possibility of death is “Boo” or “Super boo.” She even shoulders the bully’s redemption. Maddie and most characters are white; one cringe-inducing hallucinatory surgery dream involves “chanting island natives” and a “witch doctor lady.”

Medically, both squicky and hopeful; emotionally, unbelievably squeaky-clean. (authors’ note, discussion questions) (Fiction. 9-11)

Pub Date: Oct. 3, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-62972-330-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet
more